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Animal Reiki for Dogs: How to Let Animals Lead®


ARS Founder Kathleen Prasad practices Animal Reiki for dogs with a canine outside and the dog leans in to smell her face

I originally learned Reiki in 1998, and at that time there were no classes tailored for working with animals, let alone Animal Reiki for dogs. In human classes, teachers would say, “You can use Reiki for animals, plants and trees–anything really.” 


So in the beginning of my practice, I simply used what I had learned for people to help the dogs in my life: my own dog, dogs of friends and the dogs I walked at my local shelter. I did get some success using human methods (mostly hands-based and beaming) on the dogs in my life, however there were some dogs that just didn’t resonate with this approach. 


Over many years of practice with thousands of animals, I learned to evolve my approach to honor animals in a new way. In this blog I’ll share the secret to making Reiki comfortable and resonant for any and every dog, no matter their background or health conditions. 


Spoiler alert: it’s all about seeing our dogs for the healers and teachers that they are and letting animals lead! 


TwoTwo Animal Reiki practitioners in training sit and hone their skills for Animal Reiki with dogs at a local shelter

What is Animal Reiki for Dogs?

Animal Reiki, the Let Animals Lead® way, is not simply Reiki applied to animals, but it is a completely unique method of meditation practice that supports animals by letting them lead their own healing journey. 


If it’s unique, then how is it Reiki? The philosophy and meditation techniques that we use are based on the Japanese teachings of Reiki’s founder, Mikao Usui. 

 

How is Animal Reiki different from human-based Reiki teachings?  

Human Reiki is permission, consent, and comfort based, but this aspect for animals is often overlooked. Human Reiki has evolved with a human’s comfort in mind. Most commonly, the client will request the Reiki session and schedule it at a date/time that is convenient. 


Once they arrive, they will lie on a comfortable massage table (with a blanket if they find it comforting), while the practitioner performs the session with various hand positions on or slightly above the body. Human Reiki is often one of many wonderful therapies you can receive at a spa, so you can imagine all the calming things that can accompany your session: relaxing music, aromatherapy and more. 

Human clients will even fall asleep during sessions, which is a wonderful way to reset and rejuvenate our self-healing process. 


The process for animals is much different. First of all, the animal’s person may want their animal to receive Reiki, and not think about what the animal wants. However, from the practitioner’s point of view, considering the animal’s permission, consent, and preference is central to Animal Reiki’s ethics. So the first thing we must do is invite the dog to share the space if they wish, but pay attention to their response to make sure they feel okay with the session. 


Having an open intention is key to helping our energy feel safe and supportive, rather than pushy and dominant. We should be mindful throughout the session to make sure the dog’s response is positive. 


Two women sit meditating practicing Animal Reiki for dogs using the Let Animals Lead® method

Where is the Best Place to Share Reiki with Dogs?

Rather than go to a special place for the session, as humans do, it’s best to share Animal Reiki with dogs at their home, where they are most comfortable. Of course, this is not always possible (for example, in the case of shelter animals). However, it’s always a consideration for practitioners to ensure dogs feel safe to connect. 


And of course, instead of asking a dog to lie on a massage table, it’s best to meet them where they naturally are, indoors or in the yard. We might sit on the ground or in a chair when offering the session, depending on what is most agreeable to the dog. 


In addition, human-based teachings such as hand positions and mental focus on what is “wrong,” are not used, and in fact, we rely on the opposite techniques! In other words, practitioners learn how to let go of hands and focus on the wholeness of our dogs in this moment. This is because dogs connect energetically more easily than humans do, and thus often do not need or want physical touch in order to connect and relax during an Animal Reiki session. 


In addition, dogs are sensitive to the energy of our thoughts and emotions, and when we focus on their ailments, behavior issues or whatever is “wrong” with them, this can feel very unsettling for them and cause them to say no to a session. 

 

Just as we have evolved the Human Reiki session to be as comfortable and relaxing as possible for people, we must show the same care and kindness for our dogs by evolving our approach for them too.


We accomplish this by showing respect with our intention, holding space through meditation (rather than using hand positions) and by keeping our thoughts positive. In this way, we allow dogs to choose if, when, and how they want to participate in any Animal Reiki session we offer. 



A woman shares Reiki with a dog at a shelter while the dog relaxes in his shelter cage

Should I beam energy to my dog’s problem, for example a sore leg? 

“Beaming” is a term to describe the mental focus, or intention to send Reiki to “heal” this or that problem, and this runs counter to an animal-led approach. We imagine we are the “healers” there to “fix” our dogs, but this will only create obstacles to connecting. 


Beaming involves a focus of our energy on what is “wrong” and in this way brings our vibration into a negative space that our dog will walk away from. It’s important to acknowledge that your dog has a problem, but not to dwell on it, just let it go and focus on the meditation technique. 


Through our meditation practice, we can transform our perspective and learn to see deeper than what is wrong with our dog. We can learn to see through our “Reiki eyes,” to see their heart, their soul, their spirit, and their inner light. 


Did you know that humans have a negativity bias? This means that it’s the “bad” stuff that holds our attention, sticks in our memories, and even can influence our decisions. But all that negative focus can really take a toll on our health, not to mention disturb our dogs’ sensitivities. Read more about the Negativity Bias and What to Do About it HERE


By reframing what is “wrong” with our dog, we can start with a compassionate witnessing of their struggle, but then go deeper to see the bigger picture of who they are as a sentient being, soul and spirit, and this can help us raise the vibration of the energetic space we hold. To learn more about the importance of positive thinking, read this wonderful article, “The Power of Your Thoughts Through Life and Tough Times.” 


A man in a grey shirt practices sharing dog Reiki without using his hands as part of the Let Animals Lead® method

Does Animal Reiki use Chakras or hand positions?  

Chakras are not Japanese or Reiki-originated. Many people use chakras in Reiki, however these teachings are not original to the system but were added much later as part of the new-age movement. One of the problems I find with using chakras for Animal Reiki is that the focus is always on what is wrong, what is blocked or what needs to be “healed.” In this way, the session becomes very practitioner-led and difficult to stay focused on wholeness and positivity. 


Using hand positions means the practitioner is taking over the session and determining what the dog needs and wants. It’s important to let your dog guide you, so if they want physical touch, let your dog touch you, and simply rest your hands where they show you. There is no need for a formalized ritual of hand positions, such as what we use for human Reiki. 


happy dog licks his owner while they cuddle on the bed together after an Animal Reiki session

Benefits of Animal Reiki for Dogs 

Animal Reiki practitioners do not “heal” animals. In other words, they are not healers, but rather practitioners of a system of practice that teaches how to hold space that supports the animal in their self-healing process. 


Scientific studies show that Reiki activates the parasympathetic response, creating deep relaxation and stress-relief. So, in a way, the energy of Reiki tells your dog’s body, mind and spirit, “You are safe and All is Well.” Once our dog relaxes into well-being and stillness, they can organically begin the natural cycle of rest, restoration and healing. Read more about the parasympathetic nervous system and your health HERE.  


When our dogs are able to shift into the state of deep relaxation during an Animal Reiki session, a wonderful rebalancing through self-healing can occur, which facilitates improvements such as: 


  • Recovery from illness 

  • Rehab and healing from surgery 

  • Lessening and relief from anxiety-related behaviors 

  • Peace and comfort surrounding end of life (for both the dog and their human) 

  • Increased understanding and deepening of the human-dog bond  


Animal Reiki Source founder Kathleen Prasad sits sharing Reiki with dogs at an animal shelter

Typical Canine Body Language During Animal Reiki Sessions 

Because your dog’s preference before and during an Animal Reiki session is so important, here are some things to look for to see how your dog is responding to the session. 


Does my dog want touch? In order to figure out the answer to this question, we have to give him space to show us what he wants, instead of assuming what we think he wants or taking the lead on this ourselves. Don’t approach your dog to initiate touch, but rather sit back several feet from your dog and give him the option to come to you. 


If he does make contact, pay attention to where/how. Does he lay down against your back? Then he probably wants to touch you, but doesn’t want you to touch him. Does he lay down at your side? Then he probably wants you to rest your hand on him right where it naturally rests, according to his position. 


Does he crawl into your lap? Then he may want you to place your hands on him, but maybe not: slowly rest one hand and then the other and pay attention to his comfort level as you do so. Any signs of discomfort might indicate that he would like to lie on your lap with your hands resting at your sides (rather than on him). 


Should I move my hands once they are resting on my dog? No. Your dog will move if he wants your hands somewhere else. Remember that in order to let your dog lead the session, you have to let go of leading the session yourself.


What if my dog walks away? Does that mean the session has ended? Sometimes, but not necessarily. Sometimes dogs hear a noise or need to explore their environment before they are able to lay down to rest. Sometimes dogs will come and go during sessions. A typical session will last somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes. So if it’s much less time than that, be sure to stay where you are and continue holding space for your dog if he walks away because he’ll most likely come back! 


What if my dog is aggravated at my presence? Aggravation at us while we are offering Reiki means your dog is saying “no” to the session, so it’s important that we respect this and stop, perhaps trying another time. Interpreting a dog’s aggravation can be a bit more tricky in a shelter situation, for example, because perhaps it is the environment (loud sounds, strange smells, etc) causing the dog’s aggravation. 


In this case, it’s best to back up quite a bit, perhaps turn your body away from them and offer again from a farther distance to see if the aggravation goes away. By careful observance, you may be able to tell what is upsetting the dog, and if it isn’t you, then continue offering the session.  



Three women sit together in meditation while sharing Reiki at a dog sanctuary to encourage peace for the canines

Offer a Space of Peace to Our Beloved Canine Friends


By evolving our approach to let go of control and instead seeing Animal Reiki as a way of holding space for our dogs that is based on mindfulness, meditation, our dog’s agency—and their preference, freedom and independence—you’ll be amazed to see how dogs happily come forward to take charge of their sessions and connect so much more deeply! 


We’ll also be open to the lessons they want to teach us about energy, healing, resilience, compassion and so much more!  


Most of the photos in this blog were taken during Animal Reiki training at Lily’s Legacy Senior Dog Sanctuary in Petaluma, CA.

 

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Beautiful and so gentle, thank you for sharing this approach. Very loving.

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